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Global Solutions

It Wouldn't Take Much to Save Millions of Lives

Researchers Find That Small Investments and Behavior Changes Could Save Millions of Lives Every Year 

While epidemics and disasters usually grab global attention, they’re typically not the largest threats to public health worldwide. The greatest risks often command the least attention and can often be resolved in simple and cost-effective ways. 

In 2015, nearly six million children under the age of five died, as did more than 300,000 women from pregnancy-related causes.Yet, according to research led by Bloomberg School faculty in the Department of International Health, an annual investment of less than $5 per person in essential health care services such as contraception, medication for serious illnesses and nutritional supplements could save millions of lives every year. 

“Many of these deaths could be prevented if high-impact and affordable solutions reached the populations that needed them most,” says study leader Robert Black, MD, a professor in International Health. “Our analysis shows that expanding access to care to keep more mothers and children alive and healthy is feasible and a highly cost-effective investment.”

Similarly, the staggering toll of traffic injuries and fatalities does not figure prominently in the global health landscape. 

“Many people didn’t know that roads kill the same number of people—or more—than diseases like malaria or tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS,” says Adnan Hyder, MD, PhD ’98, MPH ’93, director of the School's International Injury Research Unit. Of the 1.2 million road-traffic fatalities each year, 90% occur in low- and middle-income countries.

And road injuries, which range from 20 to 50 million globally and can cause serious injury and permanent disability, account for $500 billion in direct financial costs annually. In some cases, the losses exceed a country's development aid funding.